Reliability and Maintenance Management Beliefs


Excellent leadership is an essential success factor for lasting results for any improvement initiative an organization undertakes. As a leader you need to create an organization of disciples that will follow you to make your vision, or future organization, a reality.



As a leader it is very important to develop and communicate your beliefs to your organization. In this column I will share three beliefs that I hope can serve as a guideline to develop your own beliefs for the benefit of your organisation.

The holistic system with its processes and elements can be supported by other tools and supporting processes.

A holistic overview of the reliability and maintenance management system, processes, elements, tools and supporting processes can be described in the models below:

The System

The market drives the production plan, all maintenance work requiring shut down of equipment must be coordinated with the production plan for best time to be executed. When maintenance work is planned and then scheduled you have set the process that people work in correctly so they can execute work much more safely and more cost effectively. To plan work efficiently you must have access to an up to date technical database including Bills of Materials (BOM) and other information. After work is completed it should be recorded as to what was completed, parts and material used, update information to BOM and other valid information. The recorded information shall be used to continuously improve utilising Root Cause Problem Elimination (RCPE). However, most organizations do not work in this “Circle of Continuous Improvement” they work too much in the “Circle of Despair”. This means that they React to problems at short notice and bypass the planning and scheduling of work. Repairs made will therefore be of low quality. Because of this, failures will be Repeated and it will be necessary to Return to do the work again and the circle Repeats itself. To get out of this “Circle of Despair” you must set up the processes for Prevention, Condition Monitoring, Prioritization, Planning of work, and Scheduling of work, Execution of Work, Recording of executed work, and how to do RCPE.

The Processes

An example of a process is Planning and Scheduling, or the Work Management Process. It contains several steps and starts with Work Request then Priority of Request etc. as seen in the picture below.

Within the process called Planning and Scheduling each step consists of a number of elements. E.g. the best practice within the work request process is that the request is not a work order and shall be done using the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), the requested priority shall be done according to a priority guideline agreed to between operations and maintenance. The object identity shall be clearly described verbally and with equipment number, etc. These elements are what we call the right things to do.

The Tools and Supporting Processes

The tools can be used to improve the processes in the holistic system. To avoid confusion and the “programme of the month ailment”, it is very important that tools are not mixed up with the holistic system. To be successful you must have a very well established holistic system including its processes. Tools such as 5S, Six Sigma, Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) etc. are good and very useful when used in the right environment. Implementation of only a tool will only result in temporary non-sustainable improvements. The holistic system and processes must be in place to support sustainability and continuous improvement.

Always Explain What, Why and How

People do not mind change, but they do not like to be changed. Any improvement initiative is a selling process. You need to have a clear vision of what the improvement initiative entails and why it is necessary to do it. You might have a clear idea of how it is going to be done, but after explaining the “what” and the “why” it is effective to ask people involved in the improvement initiative to come up with ideas on how they think it can be done. Focus first on getting an agreement on “The right things to do” then discuss how to do it. It is easier for people to agree on the right things to do than on how to do these things.

Many organizations put too much emphasis on change management and make this more complicated than necessary. We often hear “We already do this” and this might be true. Most organizations do most of the elements of best reliability and maintenance practices, but most can do these elements much better. Of course there might be an element of change with some people, but as most of the improvements we talk about here are common sense and nothing new, the change management element should not be neglected but also not overdone.

It can also help to describe, “What good looks like” and present a picture of what the future will look like. That is:

  • Production Reliability improved by 3 percent
  • Maintenance cost down by 15 percent
  • Very few maintenance people on late shift (24/7 operation)
  • Majority of basic equipment done by trained operators
  • And so on

Execution is Key to Success

The elements of a maintenance management system have not changed much since the 1960s. Technology such as computerized maintenance management systems and predictive maintenance tools have changed dramatically and are today much better and much more affordable. Since the 1970s industries have moved away from fixed-time overhauls and replacements of equipment components to much more condition-based maintenance.

It should be obvious that an improvement plan is executed, but many plans are never implemented to completion before a new initiative starts. I have seen so many excellent plans and Power Point presentations followed by no action.

The time it takes to develop a best practices document, define roles for the team members involved to lead the project, educate the team members, and agree on a common repeatable assessment methodology and strategy documents might be 5 percent of the total effort. To get acceptance from those who are going to implement might be 10 percent of total effort, the remaining 85 percent is On-The-Job training and coaching. Often the time is spent more on development etc. and almost no time is spent on supporting execution through On-The-Job training and coaching.

The only major difference I have seen between the best performers and the lagging organizations is that the best performers execute well-defined best practices. Most organizations know what they need to do, but they do not consistently execute the best practices better and better.